Khmer Classical Dance in Pop Music

About the Project: 

First of all, I would like to thank Lafayette's DHSS  program for giving me the opportunity in doing this research for the summer of 2020. 

I became interested in the topic because I noticed that there has been a rise in the use of Classical Dance in pop music. I, myself, along with my friends have thought of this as very creative of the artists. As I learned more about globalization and re-indigenization movements, I started to question more about this phenomenon. I became more interested in studying the reactions from younger generation Cambodians, who are leading the trend. 

Since the length of the program is only five weeks and there was also a limit to how many resources I could obtain, this project is only an overview of what has happened to Khmer Classical Dance over the years, especially during and after Khmer Rouge. In addition, the phenomenon of this inclusion trend can change in the future, so what has been deducted in this research might be seen as a one-time phenomenon in the future.   

Khmer Classical Dance has a long history that is heavily associated with religious belief, monarchy, and the state. The dance got listed as UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2003. However, the art form almost went extinct under the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979. Surviving artists have tried to revive the art despite many difficulties due to a lack of human resources, funding, and interest from the younger generation. There seems to be a generation gap between Cambodians born prior to Khmer Rouge and Cambodians who are born after when discussing the discourse of the dance. A phenomenon that is happening in Cambodia today is the inclusion of Khmer Classical Dance in pop music. The hypothesis is that what we see today is the direct and indirect impact of the Khmer Rouge regime, which lasted from 1975 to 1979.

The main purpose of this project is to study the causes that may have led to the acceptance of the inclusion of Khmer Classical Dances in Pop Music. First, an overview of the history of Khmer Classical Dance from when it was first recorded up until 1970 will be provided. Then, the impacts of the Khmer Rouge regime will be discussed along with its implication decades later. After that, sentiment analysis and topic modeling will be used to study the reactions of Cambodians, who are presumably born after Khmer Rouge, towards the use of Khmer Classical Dance in Pop music.